Siloam Pool Uncovered

The Pool of Siloam is well known to New Testament readers from the story of Jesus healing the blind man who was commanded to wash his eyes in the pool (John 9:1-11). Many liberal Bible scholars considered the story fiction than fact. For one thing, the real Pool was nowhere to be found. What we find in Jerusalem at the southern end of the slope proceeding from the Temple Mount is a fifth century pool built between AD 400 and 460 by the Byzantine empress Eudocia, and this is located at the exit point of Hezekiah’s tunnel which brought the waters of the Gihon Spring underground to David’s City which had been located just north of the exit point.

The real Pool had been buried underground by centuries of mud. It was accidentally uncovered, at least in part, in June 2004 while sewage workers were digging in the area about 200 yards southeast of the Byzantine pool to repair a broken sewage line running east-west. Israeli archaeologist Eli Shukron was watching the operation. Suddenly two ancient steps were revealed. The digging was stopped immediately. Pictures of the find were taken by the other archaeologist on site, Ronny Reich and a report was sent to the district archaeologist in Jerusalem. The area was sealed off for months and covered up but was reopened for more excavation in 2005. By May-July 2005 the digging had exposed steps on one side of the Pool 220 ft long. The steps were in three tiers of five steps each. Uncovering the whole Pool is hampered by the other, southern side being in the control of the Greek Orthodox Church. This area appears as a lush garden (where once King David had his garden).

Bible Archaeology Review (BAR) has a feature article on the discovery in its Sep/Oct 2005 issue. A picture collage based on the BAR pictures and pictures from site are shown below. The coin shown in the BAR cover inset is a Maccabean coin found encased in plaster in the dig area, one of several found. This would mean the Pool was constructed (perhaps expanded from an older pool) in the Maccabean period before the Herodian era. There is no record of the Pool being built in Herod’s time. It was already there, but could have been enlarged and beautified by Herod. The Pool was a ritual bath for the Jewish pilgrims, but may have had other uses too.

There are Old Testament references to the Pool under the name Pool of Shelah (Neh.3:15) and Waters of Shiloah (Isa. 8:6). In John’s gospel (9:7) it is the Pool of Siloam. The first century Jewish historian Josephus also refers to the Pool. It may be conjectured that steps descended from David’s City to the Pool and the King’s Garden was on the southern side of the Pool. Israeli officials are negotiating with the Greek Orthodox Church officials on further excavation.